It isn’t the bees who sting in this haunting fifties screen melodrama adapted from Fiona Shaw’s novel - it’s the people. The bees are a rather odd device which allow a young boy to tell the tale of his mother’s lesbian love affair with the local doctor. He keeps a diary about his bee-keeping and what he tells the trustworthy honey makers as he tries to navigate the complexities of adults, not least his parent’s marital breakdown and his mother Lydia’s forbidden love.
Director Annabel Jankel
Cast Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger
UK, 105 mins
In Cinemas June 2019
The film starts rather slowly, dwelling on Lydia’s failed marriage as she struggles alone to bring up her young son. Anna Paquin plays Dr Jean Markham who returns home when her father passes away, after years of banishment. Whilst both women are soft and soapy-clean, they manage to bring a nuanced contrast in characters to the screen. Jean is a gentle, conscientious young professional who suffers bigotry with dignity. Holliday Grainger plays Lydia whose sunny disposition keeps resurfacing despite the gloom of her surroundings and situation. Lydia, new to lesbian love, is more defiant and reckless.
"The protagonists sail into love without too much foreboding. It is almost as if a contemporary experience is dropped into a bygone era."
"Lulled into a moody reverie, we are quickly awakened, and the unfolding events are startling."
Lydia’s attraction for Jean is seamless, almost too easy – it is as if there is a disconnection in the film. The protagonists sail into love without too much foreboding. It is almost as if a contemporary experience is dropped into a bygone era.
The industrial Scottish backdrop - no fuss or frills - adds to the sense of making-do which pervades the film and allows for rebellion. There is a strange beauty to the bleak and miserable, be it the endless drizzle, granite buildings or plain woolen jumpers.
But a lot can go wrong for women who fall in love in the context of such a time and place. When the calamity happens it is manifold. The slow, ponderous beginning to the film is suddenly over. Lulled into a moody reverie, we are quickly awakened, and the unfolding events are startling.